by Chris Faure for the Saker Blog
Reserve currency, backing of a currency and value of the financial systems that distribute a currency.
Its going to take years for the US dollar as reserve currency to fully reduce in importance and of course, the US should continue to use their currency as their own even when it changes into a normal currency. Yet there are financial technologies (FinTech) which may accelerate this process via leapfrogging and I would argue that from a Chinese perspective this is happening. (Leapfrogging is easiest understood by looking at an older example: slower developing countries without a well developed terrestrial telephone system, where these countries leapfrogged the building of a terrestrial system, and directly went to cellular telephone technological networks without loss of function.)
Let’s first take a look at some general concepts:
The fact of ownership of financial systems is very powerful. There is value in the currency that the financial system produces, and there is value in the system itself.
The value proposition is similar but differently done in cryptocurrencies and in digital currencies. The backing frequently lies in the system itself, and not as many think, in a hard asset such as gold. This is a large step to take in thinking for most people, as the idea generally still is that money has to be something that is tangible and real – like gold (or cowrie shells). But it is not such a big step to take if one considers that the act of money creation, production and distribution of currency itself is modernizing and is developing on the same trajectory that the rest of our technological and currently digital society is developing in.
As an example, compare the development of current money distribution systems and the new Financial Technologies (FinTech) with fully automated manufacturing plants for example, where the product coming off the production line is as a result of the technological system. Money is the same, it has to be manufactured, distributed or created or somehow brought into being and these systems are now modernizing, just the same as modern fully automated manufacturing.
The current financial systems belong to the west and banking systems technology is expensive, old, legacy, decrepit and not friendly to the ordinary person, not to mention very hard to maintain. Even the ubiquitous credit cards are now old technology and fast becoming deprecated technology and being replaced by wallets on cell phones that work like supermarket scanners.
It is often speculated that China will back their digital Yuan with gold. This is not an accurate speculation. The backing is the same as with other digital and cryptocurrencies, i.e., the work that the system provides to create the financial transactions in the financial ledger confirms that the transaction is secure and someone actually owns digital currency, they can pay for goods or sell goods and they can do it much easier and incredibly cheaper via a scan of a cell phone or other digital device.
The difference between China’s digital Yuan and common crytocurrencies is the ownership of the system. In modern independent cryptocurrencies the system (the technology) is owned by those that use the cryptocurrency – it is open source. Obviously for the digital Yuan ownership of the system lies with the Chinese State. The digital Yuan though retains the strength of other cryptocurrencies. It is secure transactions, tamper proof, immediate, inexpensive, easily distributed, can cross borders and all this by virtue of being a distributed blockchain system. The easiest to explain a blockchain is that it is self-policing because of technology of consensus algorithms that verify the efficacy of financial transactions. Blockchain very simply stated is blocks of financial transactions that are algorithmically created, are by definition encrypted, and chained together in such a way that nobody can meddle with any one of them.
– The digital Yuan is not a cryptocurrency. It is a state issued digital electronic currency that happens to run on a blockchain (the FinTech).
– As the Chinese digital yuan is not and will not be backed by gold at least in our term (it is backed by the strength of the yuan as well as its system), we may well ask what the objective is of this currency.
Is it just a cute technological way of using money?
I would argue absolutely not.
Internationalization of the Yuan
Few realize the extent of the internationalization of the Yuan. As example, 20% of French trade with China is currently settled in Yuan and this is 55% of payments made between both countries. The Macron government is encouraging banks and companies to increase Yuan uptake.
I would argue that the digital yuan is a part of the 5th plank of the Belt and Road process of facilitating cross border investments and supply chain cooperation (perhaps not openly stated). If one takes into consideration that belt and road is operating now in infrastructure development and investments in nearly 70 countries and international organizations – this is not such a difficult leap to make.
So how can that bold statement be supported? It may be hard for people in countries with old financial systems (the US would be one), to even imagine the new FinTech operating in many other countries. Where I live, I can go to the local corner store, and literally send cash money to someone on the other side of the country, and they will have it immediately. I don’t have to go to a bank, do a bank transfer, send a check, or interact with a bank or a type of Paypal at all. This is a service that the corner store offers at a very reasonable cost. I can also do this directly from my cell phone. We know that in China there is little use for hard currency, and most transactions take place on internal Chinese financial networks and cell phones for the average person, but business finance still flows through banks.
So, let’s start supporting that bold statement
- The Chinese authorities added Crypto (cryptographic as well as cryptocurrency) to the School Curriculum – quite literally ‘educating the future’ in new FinTech.
- In reality the distribution of the new Chinese Digital Yuan is proceeding apace. In size, the following is not a massive deal, but in construction of the agreement, this is probably the number one of the new Chinese Digital Yuan Deals and is pure modern FinTech.
“China Baowu Group, the world’s largest iron and steel complex, completed a yuan-denominated, blockchain-technology-based transaction of more than 100 million yuan ($14 million) with Rio Tinto …, a move signaling the rising influence of Chinese currency in pricing major commodities.
Standard Chartered issued a blockchain-technology-powered letter of credit for the Baowu-Rio Tinto deal, which the bank said was the world’s first such certificate pegged with offshore yuan.
The use of blockchain technology – a digital public ledger of transactions that has seen increased usage in the global commodity trade – helped facilitate the trade and reduced costs for all parties involved in the transaction …”.
So, what can we learn from this transaction?
This is not only a further distribution of the Yuan, but is a further distribution of the digital Yuan. While we do not know how this deal is constructed in detail, the use of the words blockchain-technology-powered letter of credit says it all. It looks like this deal will run completely on a blockchain, in the form commonly known as a smart contract, where each step of the deal and its payment schedule in digital currency are transactions on a blockhain. (Now try and skim off that transaction where the rules are hardcoded at the outset with technical principles of consensus pre-programmed in the smart contract and agreements signed directly on contract existent on the blockchain– those that know project management, will know the value of a self-documenting project).
- the “Moodies”
In addition China has become the ranker of record for private cryptocurrency projects.
The health of financial systems or countries are ranked by three major ranking agencies. These are S&P Global Ratings (S&P), Moody’s, and Fitch Group. S&P and Moody’s are based in the US, while Fitch is dual-headquartered in New York City and London, and is controlled by Hearst. These organizations hold the collective global market share of who can be considered good, and who can be considered bad in the global financial system. Not too healthy in my opinion as this is a disproportionate western control over the financial well-being of other countries.
So, as the proverbial quote from Buckminster Fuller states: “You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”
The old banking and financial systems are indicative of the existing reality and are old, decrepit, ancient technology, needs a bunch of maintenance, and the worst is that they are of course owned by those that use them as weapons against others.
China is doing no less than building a new model in FinTech that will make the old model obsolete and in this way they are simply leapfrogging the current financial systems distributing the dollar with fast, lean and modern systems supporting the Financial Silk Road. They have made their own ranking system in new FinTech, i.e., cryptocurrencies. The June rankings are as follows:
Quite rightly the Asiatimes is asking .. Who is actually decoupling from Whom? And I can add, and using modern FinTech to do so with solutions appropriate contextually to our modern world.
My own expectation is that the notable private cryptocurrency systems (those that actually make it to the Chinese ranking system) will eventually be able to exchange smoothly and seamlessly with the Chinese Digital Yuan.
A quick look for the same trajectory, leapfrogging legacy systems, outside of FinTech
We see this creation of seamless new systems outside of hard FinTech as well. Here are three examples. The current hegemon in its common ‘break it’ style, made errors as it thinks if it breaks something, people will come back begging, to make a new plan. This is not happening any longer, and the world simply decouples and creates new systems, as we see from three seminal events and the hegemon further losing its power base.
– The US attacked the WTO on the basis of refusing to allow it to vote for and institute staff for the appeals body for trade disputes. Usually this would have taken many meetings to solve. This time, what happened is that China has joined 18 other members including the European Union, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong in launching a temporary system for trade disputes at the World Trade Organization, with the agency’s appeal body having ceased to function in December after the United States blocked appointments of new judges to the top trade court.
The needed functionality is now still there, the US having excluded itself (actually shot itself in the foot), while the rest of the world moved forward saying we need this body, and we will have this body, with or without hegemon. The Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA) was developed in just over three months, after the members announced at the World Economic Forum in January that they would seek to form a new body to work around the demise of the regular WTO panel.
From a combined statement by the European Union: The new system is designed to preserve the principle enshrined in international trade law that governments have the right to appeal in any dispute.
– Most readers of this blog will know how the US is trying to carve out for itself some way back to the JPCOA, the Iran agreement, after simply breaking this agreement. It is proving to be not so easy to walk this one back and so far, they have lost their power base. Do-overs are not so easy in terms of diplomacy, after one has squandered the world’s goodwill and Iran is receiving widespread help to overcome the results of any further sanctions.
It is no wonder then that the EU policy chief made this statement: US century ceding to Asian one, says EU foreign policy chief. https://tass.com/world/1160031
– The third event is the US stunt at the recent Vienna arms control talks. The US stealthily placed Chinese flags, took photos and posted media – then accused China of being a no-show, knowing full well that China declined to attend these talks and refuses to be roped into an agreement that is not in the least appropriate for it. Clear petulance is the hegemon’s only response to a visible decoupling of the world with the US and western cronies. They have nothing more left than petulance and literal pictures of false flagging to offer.
So, it is clear that both inside and outside of hard FinTech which this writing is about, the trajectory of recreating systems and simply leaving the US out, is alive and well.
A small note on Iran and Venezuela as part of the empire resistance countries. Iran is mining cryptocurrency and Venezuela floated theirs, namely the Petro. Unfortunately (and this is not the focus of this writing), they did not do that cleverly but the newest news is that the Venezuelan government is now beginning to trade in cryptocurrencies, and for example, accepting current private chain cryptos for payment for passports. Bear in mind I said that some private chain cryptos will eventually be exchanged with the digital Yuan, so, very soon now, if a government takes payment in a crypto, they will have digital Yuan if they decide to exchange – and they do not need anyone’s permission (Like a Central Bank).
What is the Chinese View
With ‘the moodies’ rating system, cryptography education in China, a clear project based on the digital yuan and blockchain technology and more to follow, it becomes clear that the Yuan and the digital Yuan is being moved into the global financial sphere, de facto without years of negotiation and agreements and trade type negotiations. My expectation then is that certain cryptography and cryptocurrencies will eventually be seamlessly exchanged on China’s blockchain(s) – and you will have a digital yuan wallet on your phone, or on your computer or even a credit card supporting and in this way, you and I could be right on the Belt and Road. In other words, if I want to use a cryptocurrency to pay for something, and I have digital Yuan or another crypto, I can simply, within my electronic wallet exchange for the right currency that I need. This is how China is distributing their Digital Yuan de facto.
What is the Russian view
Russia is still a little behind this revolution in FinTech. but with one fell swoop they can get rid of their central bank if they so choose. The Russian Central bank is following Western ways on the renewal of currency through their central bank. https://cointelegraph.com/news/russias-central-bank-seeks-to-ban-crypto-issuance-and-circulation.
Yet, the decoupling continues. It is interesting to wait to see if the 5 UN security council countries will in fact gather for the summit that Mr. Putin invited them to. My expectation is that if they don’t, Putin will run out of patience and choose others, perhaps the G20 or something new. The decoupling will continue.
We now have clear precedence set on the decoupling part of FinTech and other organizations. It is no longer a big deal to decouple from empire.
What is the Western view?
Forbes stated recently that the launch of the Digital Yuan could create serious problems for the U.S. banking system—potentially forcing the U.S. to digitalize the dollar to compete. The Federal Reserve has warned that central bank digital currencies might one day replace commercial banks, creating “a deposit monopolist” and playing “havoc” with the banking system. (This seemed to me somewhat like gobbeldy-gook and is meaningless – yet, they know something is happening.)
The West is 20 years behind this technology, because China decided to leapfrog and not follow the accepted development trajectory and as such has reconfigured the potentials for the entire planet.
It is high time and in the words of Michael Hudson: “So the United States, through the World Bank, has become I think the most dangerous, right-wing, evil organization in modern history — more evil than the IMF. That’s why it’s almost always been run by a Secretary of Defense. It has always been explicitly military. It’s the hard fist of American imperialism.”
The world is leapfrogging, and elegantly zig-zagging around current imperial financial systems, for a true birth of a new post capitalist post industrial order, without going to war for it.